‘Bhopal’, Maqbool Fida Husain’s anguished representation of the terrible consequences of industrial negligence in Bhopal, is to go under the hammer on October 8 at the Bonhams Auction House in London.
Husain’s framed and signed oil on canvas, with ‘Bhopal’ painted boldly on the side of the canvas — as if to leave no doubt on which disaster he is depicting — has been valued between £200,000 and 300,000, a press release from the auctioneers said.
“Just as Pablo Picasso’s passion and outrage towards the Spanish Civil War had inspired him to create ‘Guernica’ (1937), ‘Bhopal’ was the result of Husain’s horror at the long-lasting effects of the leak,” the press release said, though attributing the work’s energy to Husain’s own genius that was moulded by life around him. The Bhopal disaster occurred on December 3, 1984 when a poison gas leak from a Union Carbide factory killed around 2000 people.
Headlined by Husain’s ‘Bhopal,’ the October 8 auction of Indian and Islamic art will also auction ‘Bindu’ by Syed Haidar Raza (b.1922) that has been valued between £100,000 and 150,000, and ‘Untitled’ by Francis Newton Souza (1924-2002) valued between £40,000 and 60,000.
Raza started painting the Bindu series in the 1980s. “An act of meditation and the ‘Bindu’ is the centre of calm” the press release says.
Yet another highlight of the auction is ‘Four Figures” by Pakistani artist Sadequain (1937-1987) with an estimated valuation of £45,000-65,000.
This is not the first time that Husain’s paintings have been sold by Bonham’s, which specialises in Asian art. This April, an untitled Husain painting of horses was sold for £205,250; and in 2007, at the height of Husain’s troubles with right wing Hindu nationalist groups who hounded him for painting disrespectful and nude representations of Hindu goddesses, the same auction house sold his ‘Nude Woman’, a masterly painting of the naked female form, one that unfortunately had to find its home outside the country that inspired all his art.